Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Phil 3:3-8; Ps 105:2-7; Lk 15:1-10:  With hearts that rejoice in the LORD we search for him and for his will in our lives.  Our searching is not in vain and our singing is not mere noise.  We proclaim all his wondrous deeds.  He has been and still is working out his marvelous will in our lives and in our world. We glory in his Holy Name.  We rejoice without ceasing.  We look to the LORD in his strength.  Indeed, his mighty power can alone save us from ourselves. It is all together too easy for us to seek our own purpose and desires.  Until our will is one with His Will, we will not be strong.  Until we daily recall his deeds, his portents, and his judgments, we will not have wisdom.  We are the descendants of Abraham because we walk by faith and not be sight.  We are his servants, the sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.  Indeed, the LORD is God and there is no other.  His judgments prevail throughout the earth.   As Saint Paul reminds us we are the circumcision because we worship the LORD through the Holy Spirit.  We are those summoned to eat and drink at the Table of the Lord Jesus who has sought the lost and rejoices in our repentance here at this liturgy and in the liturgy of Heaven.

Saint Paul was lost, but now he is found, and now his only boast is in the Lord Jesus Christ. No longer does he put his confidence in the flesh.  No longer does he find his importance in the privilege of being circumcised on the eighth day.  No longer is his birth into the race of Israel, or the tribe of Benjamin, the source of his identity.  Although he was a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage and a zealous member of the Pharisees, he does not seek his meaning and purpose in these relationships.  Although he once fulfilled the righteousness of his origins by persecuting the Church, Saint Paul has found his true importance in the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus as the LORD.  Everything else is rubbish; all status and all honors that motivated his life and his mission is now a complete loss.  He has lost himself in Christ, and in Christ, he has found his true self.  This is what it means for Saint Paul to be of the true circumcision, to have his heart circumcised has made all the difference in his life.  We are summoned to the same conversion.  We are called to consider everything we have achieved and all our goodness and virtue as nothing in comparison to the supreme good of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ.  To be alive in Christ is true life; anything else is a living death.  We cannot hide from this conversion.  We cannot avoid the Lord Jesus and his absolute claim upon our lives.  Most of all we cannot use our religion, or our superstitious appropriation of our religion, as a wall to protect us from the demanding and dangerous life of discipleship.  If we stay away from Christ, if we avoid union with him, in him and through him with the Father and in the Holy Spirit, we will loose everything.  We will not know the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus the LORD.

Today’s gospel is the first part of the Chapter of Mercy, Luke 15.  In these two parables Saint Luke sets us up for the great parable of the Periodical Son.  Here are hearts are prepared, like good soil, to receive the seed of salvation.  Saint Luke has the Lord Jesus speaking to the Pharisees and scribes who have observed his love for tax collectors and sinners. In the minds of his opponents these outcasts, these impure members of society are to be kept at a distance, because by their behavior they have distanced themselves from the righteousness of the law and of the Holy One who gave the commands to Moses.  To be seen in their company impugns ones character. Indeed, the Lord Jesus is suspect for his association with these unrighteous.  However, there is more to the revelation of the Old Testament.  The Law and the Prophets and the Writings must be taken as a whole; the Pharisees and the scribes cannot simply select the parts of their tradition that support their self-righteousness.  If they do so they imperil their own salvation because they do not encounter the wisdom, power and Word of God.  The Incarnate Word of God, the Lord Jesus, invites them through these two harmless stories to discover the true nature of the God they so long to serve.  In the frantic search of the woman who lost her coin and in the loving shepherd who lost one sheep, the Lord reveals the active love and faithful mercy of the Father. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ seeks out all who wander away from the fold and turns the world upside down to find his precious possession.  Indeed all the angels of heaven join the divine dance of the God who delights in the repentance of one sinner.  The Lord Jesus summons us to join the feast on earth that anticipates the rejoicing of God’s future glory.  Here at the Eucharist we already share in heaven’s jubilation.